Laurie Metcalf seemed to be having trouble with the camera, and, frankly, with her life, in this fifth and final edition of Homebound Project, as she made a special appearance to read some lyrics from one of her favorite Broadway composers. Looking harried and distracted, she told us she’s been “benefit-shy,” and explained: “I lost my mom five weeks ago.“ After stumbling through, reading the uplifting couplets off the CD, sighing heavily, laughing inappropriately, getting up to drink, she ended with “Just kill me. God bless. Stay safe. Please donate.”
A title card then informed us this was “Only Light,” by Stephen Karam.
The four-minute play can be read as a satire of the sort of virtual benefit that has come to define the pandemic of 2020. And Metcalf’s performance — too believably on edge to be laugh-out-loud funny – reflects how many of us are feeling these days. The deliberately inept camerawork certainly came off as “homemade” – which was the theme of this edition of the series, available through August 9th.
The Homebound Project has raised more than $100,000 for No Kid Hungry, but it’s been more than just a worthy endeavor. There has been enough that’s been artful and entertaining in each of the five editions to make them worthwhile — Home and Sustenance in May, Champions in June, Promise in July .
Still, is it rude to admit I’m not devastated that the anthology series is ending?
Of the dozen plays in the 80-minute video of the fifth edition, only a handful stand out for me. In “Maureen,” a nearly unrecognizable Lena Dunham plays an 18-year-old freshman who tells the story of her roommate Maureen, with whom she’s forced to quarantine; if Maureen an unconventional character, the storytelling is conventionally satisfying – not just a moment in time, like so many of the other plays.
In “Othering” by Craig Lucas, Austin Pendleton portrays a man via video explaining to his old high school classmates why he’s not attending their sixtieth reunion, which turns out to be a meditation on bullying and “Othering” and how to combat it – which is to forgive it.
In some of the plays, what lingers is a single moment. In “Pretty Brown Eyes,” it’s what soldier says to his daughter during a Zoom call about everyday miracles: “Thank us for our service. Miracle. Got a
virus eating up Black folks left and right and…we’re still here, so… Miracle. Uh…60 some odd
days of folks in the streets talking about George Floyd…Breonna…when it’s usually like what? –
a week or two? Feels different. Miracle.” In “Patsy and the Children of Lord,” it’s the sudden visit by an onlooker, certainly unscripted.
Click on the photographs below to read the captions about the plays.